Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "News of the Year," Dec. 30, 2006


Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) remained in critical but stable condition last week after undergoing emergency brain surgery. The senator showed signs of progress, but doctors said his long-term prognosis was uncertain-a diagnosis that could describe control of the Senate in the wake of Johnson's sudden health problems. If Johnson cannot serve, the Republican governor of South Dakota, Mike Rounds, would appoint his replacement. The Democrats' one-seat majority would then evaporate, and Vice President Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote would give Republicans control of the chamber. Doctors say Johnson suffers from arterio-venous malformation, a condition in which arteries and veins grow unusually large and sometimes burst.


Fourteen people died and at least 100 suffered from exposure to carbon monoxide after strong windstorms knocked out power in the Northwest last week. With power failures hitting thousands of homes in Washington and Oregon, many residents turned to portable generators and even charcoal grills as sources of heat-in some cases exposing themselves to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. "We're dealing with a carbon-monoxide epidemic in Western Washington," said Neil B. Hampson at Virginia Mason's Center for Hyperbaric Medicine.

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On Mt. Hood, rescuers confirmed recovering the body of Kelly James, 48, one of three climbers missing after the storm dumped 10 feet of snow on the summit. James is the brother of Frank James, president of Reformed Theological Seminary outside Orlando.


Dr. Death will soon be on the loose again, but Jack Kevorkian says he's won't assist in anyone's suicide. Two members of the Michigan Parole Board granted a June parole to Kevorkian, who was convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder for helping Thomas Youk of Waterford, Mich., commit suicide. Kevorkian, 78, claims to have helped 130 sick people kill themselves during the 1990s, but he promises merely to push for legalization of the practice once he's out of jail. "Anything that will bring me back to prison, I will avoid," Kevorkian said at a Dec. 7 hearing. "Prison is not a place to live."


U.S. companies may now legally conduct nuclear business with India, investing in that country's nuclear power plants and trading in nuclear fuel. President Bush on Dec. 18 signed legislation opening up such trade, even though India has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Bush said the agreement will have strategic, economic, and environmental benefits: "By helping India expand its use of safe nuclear energy, this bill lays the foundation for a new strategic partnership between our two nations that will help ease India's demands for fossil fuels and ease pressure on global markets."

White House

Susan Whitson, press secretary for First Lady Laura Bush, acknowledged last week that doctors removed a skin cancer tumor from the first lady's right shin in early November. A biopsy had determined that Bush had squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that isn't as dangerous as melanoma but is more aggressive than the common basal cell cancer. Whitson said the surgery was "no big deal. She detected it early. She caught it early."


The NBA on Dec. 18 suspended seven players for their roles in a Dec. 16 brawl near the end of a game between the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks. The league's scoring leader, Denver star Carmelo Anthony, drew the strongest punishment, a 15-game suspension for shoving one player and punching another in the face. The fight erupted after a New York player committed a hard foul against a Denver player with 1:15 left in the Nuggets' 123-100 victory. The NBA also fined each team $500,000.


Joe Barbera-who made up half of the creative partnership that produced cartoon characters Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo-died on Dec. 18 at the age of 95. Barbera first worked with Bill Hanna in the 1930s, and the Hanna-Barbera animation team would go on to win eight Emmy awards. Barbera was one of many noteworthy Americans who died in 2006.


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